Monday, August 15, 2022




Program Coordinators

Johannes BECKER, University of Göttingen, Germany,

Maria POHN-LAUGGAS, University of Göttingen, Germany,


Gendered Intergenerational Experiences of Social Mobility in Migration

Joint Session with RC32 Women, Gender and Society

Session Organizers: Ursula APITZSCH, Goethe University, Germany; Manashi RAY, West Virginia State University, Charleston, United States; Minna-Kristiina RUOKONEN-ENGLER, Institute for Social Research at Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

Social mobility, understood as a change of social location within a hierarchical social structure, can be investigated along changes of vertical and horizontal social position in a society. However, this says little about the multiple experiences and social positions of people like labour migrants, transmigrants, and forced migrants who cross nation-state borders and experience social mobility in reference to different nation-states as spatially linked transnational experiences. Further, little is known from an intergenerational gendered perspective about how experiences of social mobility, such as upward, downward, and contradictory class mobility, are individually and collectively conceived, valued, and negotiated and how these experiences influence not only individual agency but intergenerational relations and family biographies. In our session, we hope to discuss the following questions:

  • How can intergenerational social mobility be conceptualized beyond nation-state borders? Which methods are helpful?
  • How are social mobility experiences intergenerationally negotiated? Are there gendered patterns of difference in such practices?
  • How do family members’ different social mobility trajectories influence the development of individual agency?
  • What does the intersectional perspective contribute to this field?

We invite papers discussing the topic from different theoretical perspectives, methodologies, and migration contexts. We particularly welcome contributions from empirically based studies.


Gazing Violence – Violent Gaze

Session Organizers: Julia SZEKELY, Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary; Julia VAJDA, ELTE University Budapest, Hungary

Our session aims to elaborate on various understandings of the gaze that either refer to the act of in/directly witnessing violence or to the violent look itself: to the act of gaze that is present in certain events of our lives and is in a sense the result of our past, i.e., our life (hi)story.

Besides the different concepts of the gaze, or the encounters manifested in these gazes in philosophy and psychoanalysis (Buber, Levinas, Lacan, Sartre etc.), recent feminist theories (e.g. Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts) discuss the objectifying gaze of men towards women. Yet, this phenomenon of objectification can be present in any kind of "power situation", in which human beings become treated as objects. This is e.g., the gaze of the aggressor whose look becomes reflected in the terrified eyes of the children shot in Buchach.

Accordingly, we are especially interested in gazes related to traumatic (historical) events where we would like to grasp the complicated relationship between various gazes between the perpetrator, the bystander and the victim. At the same time, we are likewise interested in the analysis of institutions where the remembrance of these events is at stake and there are people whose gaze is directed on these past events.

Therefore, we would like to invite papers that reflect on these acts of gazing and the persons behind these gazes through the analysis of their biographies and biographical narrations, through which empathy and solidarity can also be strengthened towards those persecuted.


Same Interview, Different Perspectives – Invited Session

Session Organizers: Lena INOWLOCKI, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany; Monica MASSARI, University of Milan, Italy; Gwendolyn GILLIERON, LinCS, Université de Strasbourg, France

Biographical researchers have different ways of approaching a biographical interview. Depending upon their preferred methodology for doing biographical analysis, but also their theoretical and normative perspectives and their substantive interests, they will tackle the analysis of a life story in different ways. In this session several researchers will be invited to engage with the same interview about a person’s life and reflect on how they would approach it and why. Transcripts will be available for participants attending the session.

In order to make sure that a range of approaches is present in the session, this will be an invited session.


The Social Construction of Migrants: Contested (Hi-)Stories of Migration from the Perspective of Biographical Research

Session Organizers: Arne WORM, University of Goettingen, Germany; Steve TONAH, University of Ghana, Ghana; Lucas CÉ SANGALLI, University of Göttingen, Germany

This session focuses on migration as a category of everyday life in different geographical contexts of the Global North and the Global South. On the one hand, migrations in the sense of spatial movements are universal phenomena in human history. On the other hand, constructions of migration – and especially "migrants" – are shaped by the emergence of statehood, border and citizenship regimes, and nationalized discourses of belonging, which are in turn entangled with global history and (post-)colonial modernity. The "comings and goings" of people in the past and in the present are negotiated differently in discourses, stocks of knowledge, and collective memories in different contexts (whether as a problem, a necessity, something normal, a tradition, to name just a few possibilities). There are great differences in respect of whether the category “migrant” serves as a symbolic boundary.

We invite papers that use qualitative approaches to study processes and constellations in the Global South and the Global North, in which constructions and (hi-)stories of migration are contested, negotiated, and transformed within everyday life figurations. The papers can relate to these suggested topics:

  • Contested knowledges: How is migration-related knowledge produced, reproduced, or transformed in different localized or transnational collectives (such as families, generations, social movements, etc.)?
  • Contested (hi-)stories: Whose experiences are presented and remembered as migration histories (or not) in different contexts and situations (e.g. in discourses, in asylum interviews, during fieldwork)?
  • (De-)Categorization of migration: Which meanings do migration categorizations have for "migrants" in different periods of their lives?


New Developments in Biographical Research

Session Organizers: Roswitha BRECKNER, Univ of Vienna, Inst Sociology, Austria; Kathy DAVIS, VU University, Netherlands

In recent years, sociologists and other social scientists have begun to look for creative, innovative ways to do biographical research. Biographical interviews using traditional methodologies of interviewing and analysis often fall short in contexts where interview partners are – for whatever reason – unable to put their experiences into words or develop a narrative about their lives. Walking tours, performances, and research using photographs, visual art or music, often provide interesting ways to do biographical research. In a similar vein, biographical researchers are combining biographical interviews and analysis with other research methodologies (ethnography, performance and visual analysis). This session explores some of these methodological advances with an eye toward expanding the terrain of biographical research.


Black Lives and the New Wave of Antiracist Mobilization within and across World Regions

Joint Session with RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements

Session Organizers: Nicole DOERR, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Sabrina ZAJAK, German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), Berlin & Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany; Sevil ÇAKIR-KILINÇOĞLU, Center of Methods in Social Sciences, University of Goettingen, Germany; Eren YETKIN, Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, Berlin / Koblenz, Germany

The violent death of George Floyd has sparked mass mobilizations in the U.S. and led to an unprecedented diffusion of “Black Lives Matter” protests around the world. However, anti-racist and black activism has a long tradition in different regions. This session wants to explore the new wave of antiracist mobilizations. Some argue that the recent wave of mobilization - while strengthening and transforming pre-existing antiracist activism in different countries - still remains largely a support of the US BLM movement. Others have pointed out, that the new shape of anti-racist mobilizations and black women’s activism, although often transnational, have little to do with dynamics in the US. They are rather a response to the recent crisis of democracy, including recent advances in the systems of oppression of intersectional marginalized social groups. This session, therefore, asks: How far is the recent wave of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPoC) activism inspired by US protests? What narratives, visual and performative repertoire, identity constructs, actors, forms of resistance, and networks shape the recent mobilization in different localities? What are its context-specific historical and regional origins? Could we apply a global perspective on the recent mobilization? What are the connections between the biographical and collective projects in dealing with different forms of discrimination and racism in the Global North and the Global South? This session seeks to discuss these topics with scholars from different world regions which explore the topic of anti-racist mobilization in its local and global constellations.


Conceptual Challenges in Biographical Research

Session Organizers: Susan BELL, Drexel University, USA; Lena INOWLOCKI, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany

This session brings to the fore conceptual challenges scholars encounter. Some of the questions this raises include: What kind of terms do researchers use to make sense of the experiences people talk about? In which ways do researchers' concepts differ from the terms ordinary people use to talk about their experiences, and which consequences can this have? How do researchers find terms and concepts that they consider adequate?

Further questions concern the terms and concepts that researchers use in different interdisciplinary contexts, such as in ethnography and in biographical research. Thus, how do we describe the research situation? Do we speak, for example, about rapport, relations, or research alliance, and what do we mean in each case?


Spatial Scales and the Analysis of Biographies and Family (Hi)Stories

Joint Session with RC21 Regional and Urban Development

Session Organizers: Eva BAHL, University of Goettingen, Germany; Nicole WITTE, University of Goettingen - Center of Methods in Social Sciences, Germany; Johannes BECKER, University of Göttingen, Germany

The analysis of spatial scales and re-scaling processes is a research perspective that has had a large impact, not only on urban sociology and the sociology of space, but on all social sciences. It has provided an important gateway to look beyond the focus on nation-states and to include the interconnections and interrelatedness of different scales, such as neighborhood, city, or region. Interestingly, the concepts of scale and biography have rarely been brought together, although references to different spatial scales are an inherent part of life stories and life histories. If biographies are seen as being not only temporally, but also spatially shaped, this aspect of multiple scales in life (hi)stories acquires central importance.

In this session we are interested in contributions which deal with the role of spatial forms and various scales in life and family (hi)stories. We invite papers addressing this topic through empirical research and discussing methodological, conceptual, and theoretical insights.

Questions include, but are not limited to the following:

  • In which ways are different spatial scales (neighborhood, city, state, the world...) interlinked when people tell the story of their lives and that of their families?
  • How do socio-historically shaped foci on specific spatial scales impact biographical courses?
  • How can biographical narratives help to analyze different spaces on particular scales or the interrelations between different spaces?
  • Are there differences in the way spaces/spatial scales are narratively conceptualized in different regional or cultural contexts?


Indigenous People’s Experiences amid Socio-Historical Power Struggles

Session Organizers: Victoria TABOADA GÓMEZ, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany; Johanna SAGNER TAPIA, Universidad de La Frontera, Chile; Gabriela PEREZ, Universidad de la Frontera, Chile

In this regular session, we will discuss how indigenous peoples around the globe position themselves in the face of multiple forms of socio-historical power struggles throughout their history. When considering a historical background of constant struggle against colonial processes, institutionalized violence, and processes of exclusion/inclusion in different areas of life, it is difficult to speak about a “resurgence” at all: to build strategies against outsiderness and power inequalities including authoritarianism represent an intergenerational task among indigenous peoples. For this session, we invite papers that aim at exploring these strategies empirically, considering current realities from different socio-historical, geographical, and cultural contexts. We particularly welcome methodological approaches that seek to reconstruct and focus on biographical or community experiences and perspectives from indigenous peoples themselves as experts on their current challenges and lessons.


Biographical Research in Extreme Places and Difficult to Reach Areas: Challenges and Strategies

Session Organizers: Karina REIF, PUCRS, Brazil; Hermilio SANTOS, Pontifcal Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; Martín DI MARCO, CONICET/IIGG, Argentina

Biographical research carried out in places which are difficult to reach, either because of geographic or security reasons, will be discussed in this session. The intention is that the papers address planning in relation to field research in places that require effort, negotiation and care for researchers to access and develop their work.

Contributions on methodological challenges and ethical issues are also expected. Studies about specific areas, such as indigenous villages, closed institutions, regions of petty and organized crime, military conflicts or exploration in the open sea, are also welcome. Areas that have experienced natural disasters or regions with extreme temperatures, as well as places with a focus on contagious diseases, also require researchers to deal with several obstacles. Discussions about this kind of experience can contribute to the production of knowledge about ways to make research viable in the face of these types of difficulties and how biographies may help to understand social phenomena.

Investigations in regions of war, prisons and disaster areas, for instance, demand strategies that involve logistics, safety precautions and planning adaptations. These are the topics that we intend to discuss and encourage in this session.


Biographical Methods in Applied Social Research

Session Organizers: Michaela KOETTIG, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (FRA-UAS), Germany; Priscila SUSIN, PUCRS, Brazil; Débora RINALDI, Universidade Pontifícia Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Applied or intervention-oriented social research uses baseline studies to first identify, delimit, and characterize daily problems faced by institutions, organizations, groups, communities, or individuals and then to develop appropriate interventions. There is a growing interest in what is called “policy research”, i.e. the study of public policy as a social phenomenon and a tool of state intervention with varying degrees of civil society participation in its planning and execution. Quantitative research still dominates policy research because it is believed that said phenomena need to be explained from a long-range analytical perspective and that qualitative methods are only capable of dealing with subjectivities and with microsocial investigation. However, public policies based on biographical methods have stood out for the past decades, bringing to light the diversity of needs, strategies, and resources present in people’s everyday lives, especially in its relationship with institutions. Other fields have also been using applied social research, such as studies on the mobilization of civil society and research for public and private organizations focusing on people and work management. Research-action, as well as the different qualitative methodologies commonly associated with it, plays a special role in these efforts. Under this light, this session is open to papers that focus on the use of biographical methods in applied research and baseline research with practical orientation within the following areas: a) research design (e.g. definition of research problem, methods, triangulation, action plan); b) ethical challenges; c) research praxis; d) implementation of interventions; e) impact assessment; f) data dissemination strategies.


Biography and Disaster: From Methodological Perspectives

Session Organizers: Gaku OSHIMA, Meiji University, Japan; Tazuko KOBAYASHI, Hitotsubashi University, Japan

Many disasters have occurred on our earth. Various natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, wildfires, and floods, have brought us the loss of homes and families, the collapse of local communities, and sometimes immeasurable damage.

Disasters have caused enormous loss and hardship to people's daily lives and have changed their lives. Disasters have a long-term impact on people's lives and experiences of disasters have been handed down to be left behind in biographies and shared as collective memories in local communities.

Disaster experiences which included severe difficulties or loss, and sometimes a feeling of solidarity have been studied through qualitative research, especially biographical methods. Interpreting these kinds of experiences requires careful considerations based on empirical research, historical oral tradition and multiple sources.

This session, "Biography and Disaster," is of particular interest to organizers who have studied the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake using the biographical approach in Japan, where earthquakes occur frequently.

The disasters are not limited to natural disasters such as earthquakes, but also include catastrophes that cause great hardships for people, such as wars or social disasters. This session aims to be a place where participants can discuss the possibility of biographical research on disasters.

We would like to address this question along with various research examples from the perspective of what kind of biographical methods are possible in the study of disaster experience. We particularly welcome contributions that discuss this topic in reference to specific empirical approaches.


Biographical Perspectives in the Research Field of Political Participation

Session Organizers: Irini SIOUTI, Goethe University, Germany; Georgios TSIOLIS, University of Crete, Greece

In this session we would like to discuss and reflect on biographical perspectives in the research field of political participation and how this might contribute to the epistemological and methodological debate in political participation research. We are especially interested in the particular role of transnational migration experience contexts and the social conditions and constellations under which forms of political participation develop in (post)migration societies. With a broad concept of participation, we are inviting papers for this session based on biographical case studies in diverse fields of political participation (including classical forms of political participation in political parties and trade unions as well as civic participation and transnational activism, etc.). Above all, the following questions should be discussed: What is the impact of a biographical-theoretical perspective in the research field of political participation? How can we take theoretically into account the local, (trans)national and global dynamics of political participation in (post)migration societies? What are the methodological challenges of using biographical methods in the research field of political participation?


Biographical Research – Contemporary Methodological and Ethical Concerns

Session Organizers: Kaja KAZMIERSKA, University of Lodz, Poland; Piotr SZENAJCH, Lodz University, Poland

The beginning of biographical research was based on written materials. The possibility of recording a spontaneous narrative in the presence of the researcher, who could observe the interactional conditions of creating a story, became the turning point. Most biographical research projects are carried out with the use of audio recordings while analytical work was focused on anonymized transcriptions. However, the new technical possibilities, analytical strategies and research practice and unexpected contingent conditions that emerged in recent years, may have started to transform the field again.

The two pandemic years have led some scholars to conduct interviews online. Researchers are increasingly expected to archive their material in digital repositories. The availability of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software led some biographical researchers to implement such practicies. Social media, online collaboration and remote work enabled new forms of autobiographical expression and self-portrayal, displaying identity, belonging, taste and status, sharing intimacy or raising public concerns. They also reshaped attitudes towards privacy. All this prompted some researchers to consider audio-visual digital data such as photos, videos, vlogs and social media entries as viable and valuable research material. Others reached for photo and video cameras as well as audio-visual techniques for producing and eliciting research material.

These issues and others not mentioned here pose new methodological and ethical challenges. We invite researchers who can share their experiences, good practices and dilemmas that arise when working on biographical materials and solutions agreed upon in their research environments on how to adapt the biographical approach to contemporary realities.


Collective Memories of Violence: Remembering in Families and Local Communities

Joint Session with RC56 Historical Sociology

Session Organizers: Gabriele ROSENTHAL, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany; Miriam SCHAEFER, Georg-August-University Goettingen, Germany; Deniz DEMIRHISAR, IFEA (Institut français d'études anatoliennes) / CETOBAC - EHESS, Turkey

In recent decades biographical research has given more attention to the relevance of collective memories of violence such as armed conflicts and persecution in different historical periods and world regions. Collective memories shape people’s view of the past, and determine which parts of the past are included or excluded in the present knowledge of social groups and collectivities. They also shape the "we" and "they" images that are constitutive for biographies, and structure interactions in power asymmetric relations. Not least, collective memories are in competition with each other, and social power relations are responsible for their dominance or marginalization. Accordingly, they co-determine the social position of individuals and groupings.

From the perspectives of historical sociology, figurational sociology and biographical studies, we will investigate how collective memories of armed conflicts and persecution are shaped within local communities and families, and their impact on biographies and the social positioning of individuals and groupings. We will explore the following questions in the session:

  • What (competing) collective memories of armed conflicts and persecution are formed and transmitted by families or local communities in their respective contexts?
  • Under which socio-historical conditions can they be passed on (or not) and in what ways can they be subject to transformations?
  • What is the significance of collective memories and the associated discourses for biographical structures and social figurations in local contexts?
  • What effects on biographies can we empirically determine if the collective history related to one's own grouping is not part of dominant collective memories and discourses?


Emotions in the Research Process: Methodological Challenges and Theoretical Reflections

Joint Session with WG08 Society and Emotions

Session Organizers: Marina ARIZA, INSTITUTO DE INVESTIGACIONES SOCIALES, UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTÓNOMA DE MÉXICO, Mexico; Minna-Kristiina RUOKONEN-ENGLER; IfS, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Germany; Irini SIOUTI, IfS, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Germany

Emotions can both hinder and facilitate sociological research. Even though emotions surface in all types of face-to-face interviews and are shaped by its form, e(auto)biographical narrative interviews, in particular, seem to bring up strong emotions. These usually concern crucial moments of one's personal life that may be thematically related to wider social phenomena like societal cleavages, majority-minority relationships, socio-economic or political conflicts, political repression or (civil) wars. However, idiosyncratic emotions also surface in such interviews. Interviewees may openly address them or rely on different strategies to hide them. The researcher is usually affected by these emotions and should therefore not only learn to acknowledge and read them but also reflect upon their own emotions during the entire research process. In this joint session of WG08 and RC38, we would like to discuss the following questions: How do we recognize and conceptualize the emotional dynamics of the interview? How do we deal with the emotions of the researcher? What role does the research setting play in evoking emotions? How do we analyze emotions? How do write about our findings and present them to our readers? How do we teach about the role of emotions in the research process? We invite papers that discuss the influence of emotions on a research process from different methodological and theoretical perspectives.